Trinity Episcopal Church/ Spirit of Hope

1519 Martin Luther King at the intersection with Trumbull

(You will often find the beautiful church listed at 1519 Myrtle. City officials changed the name of Myrtle to
honor the Detroit resident who played an important role in the Civil Rights Revolution)

James E. Scripps was born in London in 1835. His family migrated to the United States with him in 1844 and settled in Rushville, Illinois. With only a country school education, James Scripps moved to Chicago where he worked for a newspaper and then, in 1859 when he was 24, moved to Detroit to work as a reporter and writer for the Detroit Tribune. As Detroit's population grew in the early stages of industrialization, he realized that the growing blue-collar working class would buy a newspaper targeted to them and focused specifically on their interests. Prior to this many newspapers were linked to a political party and primarily espoused the views of that party. Scripps saw a market in the growing blue collar urban ranks. He became an entrepreneur and, on August 23, 1873 began publishing the Detroit Evening News, a newspaper that is still published in Detroit, but is now known as the Detroit News. His critics bemoaned the minimum intellectual content of his newspaper and its many advertisements for low-cost goods, but Mr. Scripps sold numerous copies and prospered. Along with his younger half-brother, E. W. Scripps, James Scripps held financial interests in newspapers in Cincinnati, Chicago, Cleveland, and St. Louis, as well as Detroit. By 1881, James Scripps was a very rich man in the booming industrial Detroit.

Somewhere in his career, he developed a strong interest in classical art and architecture. He toured Europe in the early 1880s, examining classical painting and purchasing some of them for his own collection. He was one of the founders of the Detroit Museum of Art. Indeed, he gave $50,000 to fund the Detroit Museum of Art, the organization that later became the Detroit Institute of Art. In 1899, he gave the Detroit Museum of Art their first collection of the paintings of the European masters. James Scripps' sister and financial partner, Ellen Scripps was the founding donor of the now very well known Scripps Institute of Oceanography in LaJolla, California.

Epiphany Reformed Episcopal parish was founded in Detroit in 1878 to serve Anglicans who did not pledge themselves to the Episcopal bishop of Michigan. This congregation built a small frame church in 1880 near the corner of Grand River and Trumbull and then changed their name to Trinity Episcopal in 1889. By this time, James E. Scripps had built his mansion on Trumbull also near the corner of Grand River. At some point, he began to attend the Episcopalian church that was very near his home. His home has been razed but the gates of his property now stand at the enterence to the small Scripps Park that occupies the property her owned.

Scripps traveled to his native England in the 1880s and admired the architecture he found there. Since he had sufficient funds to build a church for his congregation, he selected the architectural style. He commissioned an English architect to tour southern England to sketch the best of the early Gothic churches—a style he clearly preferred. He then asked the Detroit firm of George Mason and Zacharias Rice to build the church you see at the southeast corner of Martin Luther King (Myrtle) and Trumbull. George Mason has toured extensively in Europe so he was familiar with Gothic architecture but he, or his staff architects, must have spent a great deal of time studying how churches were built in the 1400s. You will find, in Detroit, quite a few elegant gothic churches built from the later 19th Century until the start of the Depression. This one is distinctive since it is among the first classically Gothic church built in the United States. It has a traditional cruciform using coarse rock faced white Trenton limestone for the solid - two feet thick -masonry walls. The smooth brown limestone used extensively for trim attractively offsets this coarse white limestone. It is basilican in plan; that is, borrowing from the Roman style, it has a nave, two aisles and an apse at the end of the nave. Note that there is also a massive tower at the cross of the arms of the cruciform. Large buttresses and stone gothic arches support this central tower. The fenestration is symmetrical using lancet arched stone window casings with stone hoods. The tracery—the stone vaults that divide the large windows—is architecturally correct. Mr. Scripps did not spare a penny when it came to stone carving for this magnificent church. In the interior, ten angels carved from Bedford limestone support the nave beams. In this interior, you will also see massive pillars in the Norman Gothic style. There are more than 200 stone carving in this church. There are carved stone gargoyle rainwater leaders and the impressive crenellated parapet walls along the roof making this church different from others in Detroit. The stained glass channel window shows the baptism of Christ and was done by the Mayer Company of Munich. The stained glass window in the east aisle is a memorial to William Scott while the west aisle window picture Christ as the Good Sheppard. These were done by the Tiffany Glass Company of New York. The organ is a 1200 pipe tracker made by the Jardine Company, also of New York. This church has the most extensive collection of gargoyles in the city. They were originally added to buildings to direct rain water away from walls but some also assumed that gargoyles guided evil spirits away. There are also many grotesques in this church. These are stone carvings depicting people but in a carcitured manner. They have almost totally disappred from modern architecture but were popular in the Medieval era.

In keeping with the Fourteenth Century theme, this church is probably the only place in Michigan where you will find a stone carving of King Richard II who lived from 1367 to 1399. He served as ruler of England from 1377 to 1399 but was deposed by Henry of Bolingbroke. There is also a stone carving of John Wyclkiff (1320 to 1384), the dissident Catholic theologian who is credited with being the first to translate the Bible into England and whose ideas may have contributed to the Reformation.

The uniqueness of this church may be appreciated by comparing it to some of the impressive churches built earlier in Detroit such as St. John's Episcopal at Woodward and Vernor, Sts. Peter and Paul on East Jefferson, and the Church of the Messiah on East Grand Boulevard. Then you might contrast Trinity Episcopal to some of the impressive churches erected in Detroit after the Gothic ideal became popular such as St. Paul's Cathedral at Woodward and Hancock, Most Blessed Sacrament Cathedral at Woodward and Belmont or Ralph Cram’s St. Florian in Hamtramck.

In 1896, members of the Trinity Episcopal congregation voted to unite their parish with the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan. In addition to the church, there is a Late Gothic Revival parish house constructed from sandstone ashlar in 1925. This building includes a chapel, gymnasium, offices and classrooms. This is known as the Wilson Parish Hall, named in honor of Reverend Wilson who served as rector.

Faith Memorial Lutheran was a parish established nearby at the corner of Trumbull and Alexandrine in 1956 to serve the residents of the Jefferies Housing Project. From the perspective of 2006, it seems odd to think that a Lutheran Synod would create a parish to serve the residents of a massive set of high rise buildings. However, public housing did not have such a strong negative stigma since it served the needs of low-income families who later moved into their own homes. The federal government built the Brewster Project near downtown on the east side of Woodward to provide housing for Detroit blacks. Later, they built the Jefferies Project near downtown on the west side of Woodward to provide housing for whites. By the 1960s, however, these huge high-rise projects in many cities, including Detroit, provided housing almost exclusively for blacks, primarily families headed by women. Not long after the establishment of Faith Memorial Lutheran, the racial composition of the Jefferies Project changed.

By the 1980s, urban planners recognized the folly of concentrating impoverished black, female-headed families in high-rise public housing projects. Beginning in the first Bush Administration and continuing into the Clinton Administration, federal funds became available to raze the high-rise public housing projects and replace them with alternatives, including low-rise, suburban-like housing and rent vouchers. By 2001 or so, almost all residents had moved away from the Jefferies Homes and so the clientele for Faith Memorial was gone. In the 1990s, Faith Memorial and Trinity Episcopal began discussions about a merger. In 2006, the congregations of the two parishes started to worship together at Trinity calling their new congregation the Spirit of Hope. This parish is now affiliated with both the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan and the Southeast Michigan Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran in America.

For an array of extremely informative pictures of this church includings its interior, please see the book noted below.

Architects: George Mason and Zachariah Rice
Date of Construction: 1893
Architectural Style: Fourteenth Century English Gothic
For more information, see: Marla O. Collum, Barbara E. Krueger and Dorothy Kostuch, Detroit's Historic Places of Worship. Detroit: Wayne State Universityj Press, 2012.
National Register of Historic Sites: Building #80001929, Listed: May 22, 1980.
State Register of Historic Sites: Listed August 3, 1979
State of Michigan Historical Marker: I believe that none has been erected.
City of Detroit Local Historic District: The interior of this beautiful church was designated a City of Detroit
Local Historic District on March 12, 1979.
Use in 2013: Church
Photo: Ren Farley, July, 2003
Description updated: February, 2013

Return to Religious Sites

Return to City of Detroit Historic Designations

Return to Homepage